How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Published?

Writing a book is one thing, but how long does it take to get a book published? What variables come into play? Are there things a writer can do to speed up the process? We dive into these questions and more.
Author:
Publish date:

Some of the simplest questions in publishing have some of the most complicated answers. And "how long does it take to get a book published" is about as simple as a question can get.

(When should writers negotiate better terms?)

The range of possible answers is nearly infinite. In the past, I've literally published a book (well, chapbook) the same day as the manuscript was ready to go. That's super fast! I've also had books and ebooks go from idea to publication in less than a month. Again, super fast!

On the other hand, some books are published more than two years after the ink dries on the book contract. Most books fall somewhere in between those timelines.

So let's look at how long it takes for a book to get published as well as what the conditions are for each situation.

*****

Breaking In Debut Novelist Virtual Conference

Spend the weekend of June 26-28 hearing from debut authors who recently broke into the industry and are finally published. They'll share their stories and give you advice and insights into what's working for debut authors right now. In addition to the instruction, attendees can submit a query for critique by a literary agent. Experience the education, camaraderie, and opportunities provided by a live writing conference without ever having to leave your home!

Click to continue.

*****

How Long Does It Take to Get a Book Published?

Before I get into a more definitive answer to this question, let's set some ground rules. For beginners, we're going to say this book is getting traditionally published. As I shared above, self-publishing makes time to market exceptionally fast.

Second rule: We'll say that the manuscript is complete, because the act of completing a manuscript can significantly alter the publication time, especially if several revisions are necessary. So let's say the manuscript is relatively ready to go (knowing that even the most polished of manuscripts may require a round or two of edits).

(When should writers edit their writing?)

Third and final rule: Let's agree that a contract is on the table. This cuts out the highly variable time required to find an agent and/or land a book deal in the first place. I mean, some writers get lucky on their first shot; others take much longer to get that first offer.

how_long_does_it_take_to_get_a_book_published_robert_lee_brewer

Okay, So How Long Does It Take?

With our rules established above, the typical time it takes for a writer to go from book contract to publication is usually somewhere in the nine months to two years area. Many factors come into play for this range of outcomes, including the size of the press and how far out they plan their production schedule.

Of course, a proposed publication date should be mentioned in the book contract, though it can change (one direction or another) based on a variety of unexpected situations that arise. For instance, the situation with COVID-19 has caused some books to move their publication dates back.

I've also known situations where a publication date is moved to an earlier date for a variety of reasons: Filling a slot that opened in the production schedule, capitalizing on a trend, or even a company looking to move profit into an earlier quarter. For these reasons, it's a good idea to turn things around as early as you're able. It just gives you more options for when the unexpected opportunities occur.

Why Does Publishing Take So Long?

The time it takes to publish a book involves several factors, and only one of them is the amount of time it takes to edit, proofread, and possibly fact check the manuscript. There's also time built in for designing the interior and exterior of the book. Time built in for shipping the manuscript to and fro. 

Book reviewers and author interviewers need time with advanced review copies (or ARCs) of the book. Booksellers need time to evaluate promotional material and decide whether or not to stock the book in their stores. Writers who may or may not endorse your book need time to write their blurbs.

(Why do authors cross out name when signing book?)

And smart editors build time in their production schedules for multiple things to go wrong. 

A Final Word on Publishing Time

After spending so much time writing the book and submitting the manuscript, it's only natural that writers might get impatient with the publishing process. But remember: All the time baked into the production schedule is meant to give you and your book the best chance to have a successful book launch. And that's all time well spent.

Batra&DeCandido_1:18

Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido: Entertainment and Outrage

Authors Dr. Munish Batra and Keith R.A. DeCandido explain how they came to co-write their novel and why it's important to them that the readers experience outrage while reading.

incite_vs_insight_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Incite vs. Insight (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use incite vs. insight with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Cleland_1:17

Jane K. Cleland: On Writing the Successful Long-Running Series

Award-winning mystery author Jane K. Cleland describes what it's like to write a long-running book series and offers expert advice for the genre writer.

writer's digest wd presents

WD Presents: #StartWrite, Virtual Conference, and New Courses

This week, we’re excited to announce free resources to start your writing year off well, our Novel Writing Virtual Conference, and more!

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.

writing_mistakes_writers_make_talking_about_the_work_in_progress_robert_lee_brewer

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.

Kelly_1:15

Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.